Pick a Path

June 1, 2010
In the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy is told to follow the Yellow Brick Road to get to her destination. Like Dorothy, your new patients must follow the right paths to reach their unique destinations.

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: routine care path, comprehensive care path, foundational care path, Dr. Nate Booth.

In the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy is told to follow the Yellow Brick Road to get to her destination. Like Dorothy, your new patients must follow the right paths to reach their unique destinations. The best time to pick their paths is at the end of your clinical examination.

Pick the routine care path for patients who need only routine care (i.e., two or three restorations). Because it’s easy and quick to explain the care they need, you can discuss the care, make financial arrangements, and schedule visits at the end of the examination visit.

Pick the foundational care path for patients with serious foundational problems (periodontal, endodontic, and/or surgical). These people require care that needs to be completed before you discuss comprehensive treatment. Like the people on the routine care path, you can talk about the needed foundational care, make financial arrangements, and schedule visits in the last few minutes of the first visit. Many foundational care patients haven’t been to a dental office for years because of their extreme fear. They are often excellent candidates for sedation dentistry.

Pick the comprehensive care path for patients with more complex problems. Have an intermediate conversation with these folks about treatment possibilities at the end of the examination visit. It’s effective to break the conversation into treatment areas: periodontal, restorative (endo, fillings, crowns), replacement (removable, fixed, implants), cosmetic (orthodontics, cosmetic restorations), and other (occlusion, sleep apnea, etc.).

In each area, discuss the patients’ problems and possible solutions starting with the worst options (do nothing). Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. Use your best educational material. Think in terms of generalities and possibilities. Don’t get into specific treatment plans.

Just have comfortable conversations about treatment possibilities. You can also discuss the investment needed for each possibility in general terms. At the end of each treatment area conversation, get feedback on the option(s) the patient would like to pursue. Then create the specific, comprehensive treatment plan(s) that will be presented at future visits.

Three Pick a Path advantages

There are three advantages to the Pick a Path concept:

1 It’s respectful to patients — Patients aren’t lumped together in one gigantic, gooey glob. Individual attention allows people to learn about their needed care easily. No muss, no fuss. The foundational care allows people to discover the steps needed to get their worst problems taken care of quickly. When their mouths are healthy, they’re in a better position to hear about comprehensive restorative, replacement, and cosmetic care in two or more conversations. They don’t get everything dumped on them during one overwhelming conference.2 It maximizes your time — When you run all of your patients through a single case acceptance process, you may spend too much time with the small case people and not enough time with the comprehensive case people.3 It leads to higher case acceptance — Most people need time and space to get their minds around the comprehensive dentistry they want and need. Reserving time for conversation at the end of an exam visit allows them to be comfortable with their high investment treatment plans, and allows you time to craft your next conversation with them based on what you learned during the intermediate conversation.

Team meeting

The Pick a Path concept makes a great team meeting. Here’s how: A couple of days before the meeting, give everyone a copy of this article. Ask them to be ready to answer this question: “How can we best install the Pick a Path concept?” Then hold a one-hour team meeting to solicit everyone’s ideas. Put together a plan to implement the ideas.


Dorothy faced some interesting challenges on the way to her destination. On the yellow brick road to your Pick a Path destination, there will be no wicked witches, no deadly poppies, and no flying monkeys. I promise.

Recommend Dr. Booth to speak at one of the meetings or conventions you attend. For details, visit www.natebooth.com or call (800) 917-0008.

Dr. Nate Booth is a speaker, consultant, and author who provides dentists with the information and systems they need to thrive in their dental practices. Dr. Booth is a practice management advisor for ChaseHealthAdvance. He is the creator of the in-office, DVD-based program, The “Yes” System. For more information, go to www.theyessystem.com, or call (800) 917-0008.

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